Written by: Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas
Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Valeria Golino, Mía Maestro, Roger Rees
Passion and art go together like peanut butter and jelly because of the personal nature every piece represents to the artist creating it. Whether it be subtle or as graphically representative as the many works of Frida Kahlo, the meaning sits there for all to see. While taking a stronger focus on the relationships and politics of the titular character, Frida allows the art to detail the pain of her life brought forth by a tremendous lead actor.
Following an accident on a trolley at the age of 18, Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) has spent many years recovering in her efforts to become an artist. On this journey, she meets Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), who introduces her to the communist movement in Mexico along with the struggle of art meeting finance.
With such a personality to capture, Frida certainly takes a look at Frida’s artwork, but the narrative of this biopic focuses strongly on the relationship with Diego Rivera. From the very beginning, she knows of his indiscretions and how he cannot be trusted to remain loyal to her, but the connection they have together cannot be separated. Something binds them together in their journey and even when emotional abuse occurs. For better or worse, they inspire each other to do better on the artistic side of things, which will forever make them crawl back to each other.
For those who did not know, the titular character was very involved with the communist movement, even bringing Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) over for sanctuary later in the film. Elaborating on this aspect of Frida’s life adds great context to her line of thinking, what she valued in a political sense, and how it relates to her personal relationships. Even when a youngling, Frida never veered away from sharing her opinions and outlook on life, which initially caught Diego’s attention. Their world travels to allow for them to assimilate to the different cultures around them but their baggage remains the same throughout.
One of their major stops occurred in New York when Diego received a commission to paint a mural for the Rockefellers. New York becomes a feeding ground of inspiration but also where the politics of this couple hit an impasse. As much as the film displays, Mexico certainly presented as a safe home for the outright communist beliefs for the couple, a sentiment not met with as much sympathy in the United States. The scenes held between them and the Rockefellers provide plenty of insight on where politics, art, and commerce meet with plenty of illumination of the thinking of this time.
One major avenue this film has no issue exploring is the sexual adventures of both Frida and Diego and what crosses the line when they get married. Diego’s reputation preceded him when he met Frida and we truly get to see how he can easily navigate the world of women. As described in the film, he had a way of looking at a woman’s imperfections and making them feel perfect for having them. A tactic that worked on Frida even when knowing the man’s moves but the film makes the case why she would fall in love with a man like him. Their sexual exploits extend beyond their relationship, including some steamy sequences Frida has with different men and women throughout the film, but a certain line must never get crossed. As you can imagine, Diego certainly crosses it.
Even with the focus of the feature being between the love and hate between Frida and Diego, the titular character’s artwork finds its way through the feature almost in a metaphorical manner as it takes her most famous pieces and shows the raw inspirations for them. Not many get as explicit and vulnerable as the one following a miscarriage where the painting shows in a very literal sense how she feels in the aftermath of it all. Several of her paintings come in a familiar sense where the inspiring scene occurs in conjunction with its appearance on screen.
Walking away from the feature the only thing left on my mind, and I’m sure will be the same for many is Salma Hayek in the lead role. She brings it all to this role in capturing every stage of Frida’s life and puts in the greatest performance of her career. Hayek matches everything she needs to accomplish in accurately portraying Frida Kahlo and handles the presentation with plenty of respect and adulation for the figure herself. Getting the opportunity to portray this character is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and Hayek certainly did not squander the chance to honor this important figure in the art world and of Mexican history.
At the intersection of politics, finance, passion, and art is where we find Frida Kahlo in this feature. A beacon for artistic flourishes and this biopic allows more insight into not only what inspired many of her paintings but also, how it relates to the many relationships in her life. Plenty of hardships to catalog throughout, but Frida lived quite the lifestyle, interacted with many important figures of history, and stands alone as a vital component herself. All led by Salma Hayek, this film succeeds in bringing to life an incredible woman.